First night on the Rainbow Warrior swinging like a piece of washing in the wind – is she trying to jump the rainbow? Falling around in my cot I don’t sleep much, but listen to the swishing of waves breaking off the ship – a constant reminder that I’m not dreaming. I am indeed on this legendary boat, sharing the story with our readers.
This is the third Rainbow Warrior – one of 3 Greenpeace International boats at sea at the moment. The other 2 are the Arctic Sunrise and the Esperanza, each with magnificent stories behind them. According to Captain Pete Wilcox the first Rainbow Warrior was blown up by the French secret police in ’85 while they were protesting against nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean.
The second Rainbow Warrior was last year donated to Bangladesh, where it is now being turned into a floating hospital by an organisation called Friendship. In this country there is only one doctor for around 20 000 people. Friendship have a host of voluntary doctors from across the world helping out in places in need.
Most environmentally friendly ship ever
This green ship is also the most eco of all the Greenpeace ships, as she’s the first one that was custom built after years of planning by Greenpeace – She was built in Poland then towed to Germany, where the rest was created and put together by German enginieers. She was designed to run primarily as a sailing boat to harness the energy of the wind. Four large sails are attached to 2 A-framed masts to catch optimal wind. The captain calls her ‘the most environmentally friendly ship ever made.’
Right now she is on a mission to help save the Indian Ocean from overfishing, especially focusing on the very threatened tuna fish schools. Greenpeace will be working with government authorities to document illegal fishing.
That is after having success along the West African coast campaigning against illegal fishing. As a result of their work 29 fishing licences were cancelled in Senegal and Mauritania. Off this coast, industrial vessels take 50 times more fish per day than a traditional Senegalese can catch in one year. Thanks to their dedication a 6 month period of no fishing was declared for the fish to regenerate. The differences in fish resources are being documented and an increase in fish has already been noted since then.
Last chance to save the ocean
Within 20 to 30 years, at the current rate of CO2 absorbed by the ocean, it will be too acidic to support plankton, the bottom feeders of the food chain. “At the current rate of fishing and carbon emissions our oceans will be dead in 40 years,” said Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace International, in Cape Town recently.
You still find people who think environmentalism is a ‘white middle class’ concern – I heard another journalist pose this question on the boat yesterday. We have to understand the fundamental connection to human concerns.
Here is a recipe for destroying life on earth:
- Every 2 seconds cut down a forest the size of a football field
- Escalate carbon emissions as fast as possible
- Overfish the oceans and
- Drive ocean acidification
- Lose the food that the bulk of the world rely on for protein – especially the poor
- Dead ocean = dead people.
This is the path we’re on.
To see is to understand and become active
The problem with the plight of the ocean is that we can’t see it. In the case of the awful rhino poaching, it was visible and photographs were circulated via the internet. Our society had an excellent response. What happens at sea is so far away that it’s invisible to most of us. That is why the Rainbow Warrior, with its team of people from 14 different nationalities, will be documenting what’s going on in the ocean.
At dawn I am desperately drawn to go on deck and watch the day break. And there at the bow is a school of dolphins leading the Rainbow Warrior into a clear-sky, crystal African day. An hour later a whale sprays his champagne mist over the celebration of waves and warriors.